Spring Reviews: All My Faith Lost + Harrow + Sangre de Muerdago

Vernal Reviews – Songs for Changing Seasons: All My Faith Lost, Harrow, Sangre de Muerdago

Whether mere coincidence or a synchronization of celestial events, last week’s odd confluence of solar eclipse, super moon, and massive display of aurora borealis dramatically marked the first day of spring and the vernal equinox, when day and night are of equal duration. Following suit, we draw from past, present, and pending releases to reflect on recordings that embody Nature’s balancing of light and dark:

 

All My Faith Lost - Redefine My Pure Faith

All My Faith Lost – Redefine My Pure Faith

All My Faith Lost
Redefine My Pure Faith EP

Released almost a year ago, these six reinterpretations of songs by Black Tape For A Blue Girl, the flagship darkwave band of Projekt Records’ label founder Sam Rosenthal, possess a delicate and sombre beauty in the hands of this ethereal goth-folk outfit from northern Italy. These treatments ignite Rosenthal’s bleak, anguished lyrics with a warmth akin to nostalgia, courtesy of Viola Roccagli’s and Federico Salvador’s tranquil vocal contributions; and, although the gossamer threads of acoustic guitar are accompanied by mournful synths, cello, and violin, these arrangements arouse a sense of emotional maturity and depth that, if not entirely optimistic, is at least pragmatic in its adherence to the hope that time can bring light to our darkest moments. “Dulcinea” best illustrates this complexity – Roccagli enounces the song’s sparse, repetitive lyrics with poetic musicality while a wash of guitar and synths fills the background with a wistful brightness. Then as now, this EP edged its way into regular rotation at the seasons’ turn last spring and autumn; well worth revisiting.

 

Harrow - The River

Harrow – The River

Harrow
The River EP

Intended as a companion or coda to Harrow’s recent full-length Fallow Fields, The River succinctly encapsulates the spirit of the former release with strong songwriting and obviously passionate execution, performed with abandon. The River’s eponymous opening track demonstrates a Zeppelin-like idyllic quality and truly glorious vocal work by both guitarist Ian Campbell and (in the absence of full credits, one assumes) bassist Kat Mason [UPDATE: guest vocals provided by Carolin Margraf]. The black metal components of second track “Stream-Enterer” click perfectly with the more melodic elements to create a genuine emotional charge similar to the classic black metal of old yet uniquely their own, and which seamlessly carries over to closing track, “Return”.

The River shows the band at their most comfortable and confident to date, and one suspects that it hints at greater things to come (hopefully in the form of more frequent EP’s!)

 

Sangre de Muerdago - Lembranzas dende o Lado Salvaxe

Sangre de Muerdago – Lembranzas dende o Lado Salvaxe

Sangre de Muerdago
Lembranzas dende o Lado Salvaxe

Collecting previous releases Braided Paths and Nas Fragas do Río Eume with compilation tracks and unreleased material, according to the band’s Facebook page this album will be available imminently, to coincide with a mini-tour of Ireland. Similar to the more pastoral elements of Harrow, Sangre de Muerdago’s “Galician forest folk” is a hypnotic blend of classical guitar with traditional folk influences, accompanied by European folk instruments (hurdy-gurdy, tin whistle, bodhran) alongside the dulcet vocals of principal guitarist and founder, Pablo C.

Equal parts light and shadow, Sangre de Muerdago conjures images of the forest at sunset where it feels most at home, somewhere between the glow of firelight and the encroaching shadows. Braided Paths, originally a split LP with novemthree, opens with the lilting “A Xustiza pola Man,” an adaptation of Rosalía de Castro’s dark poem of injustice, loss, and vengeance, and then continues through themes of mystery and mortality before it concludes with a song titled after navigational coordinates, “53º40’6″N, 8º06’3″E”. Nas Fragas do Río Eume carries on in a similar vein with spellbinding guitar, albeit the lyrical tone is one of awe rather than mystery, and is lyrically reminiscent of literature by naturalists and mystics – a fitting association, given the deep connection with forest lands and nature as expressed on each and every recording. Ideal music for a spring nature hike or a camping trip, particularly for those who share a wonder and reverence for nature.